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I am finishing up an end-grain butcher block cutting board (my first attempt) for my parents Christmas gift. Thus far I've finished it with mineral oil that I've been soaking into the pores. My last coat didn't soak in as much so I wiped away the excess and it looks good.

I've also heard tell of people finishing it off with a beeswax finish. I have a friend that is a bee keeper who took some time to render me some fresh beeswax. I'm not sure what's the best way to use this as part of my finishing process. That's my question.

My best thought is to simply cut off a small chunk and warm it in my hands till it's pliable. Then simply rub it all over the board. Finish it off by buffing it with a clean cloth. Any other good ideas? Is this a good approach?

The cutting board so far: cutting board

The raw beeswax:

enter image description here

  • Nice job on the chopping block Jon, looks great. For next time there are some simple tips that can reduce scorching with the router. Out of curiosity what woods did you use, is it oak and maple? – Graphus Dec 18 '17 at 8:05
  • You have a good eye! Maple and Oak every other layer. What are your simple tips? I'm really a rookie with a router. – Jon Dosmann Dec 18 '17 at 13:59
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    The oak was easy (it's very characteristic) and maple seemed like a safe guess for the paler wood :-) Re. routing, see previous Q&A Routing boards without burn. Shallow passes are a key thing, but a very very shallow final pass (taking off approx the thickness of sticky tape) tends to help both remove any scorching and give a particularly good surface. – Graphus Dec 18 '17 at 20:59
  • Anyone ever try putting the board in a warm oven for a bit? – Momof4 Mar 5 at 17:00
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There are various ways of introducing wax to wood, including dissolving the wax into the mineral oil (this makes what some call "board butter" or "spoon butter"), making up a conventional paste wax, or by applying it molten.

The goal here is to get the wax to be absorbed by the wood as deeply as possible, not just to apply a coat of wax to the surface which is then buffed to a shine as is normally done on furniture. To best facilitate this the wax needs to made liquid.

IMO melting the wax* and applying it to directly to the wood is by far the best option for an end-grain board.

Regardless of whether you use a "board butter" or apply straight melted wax I think you should warm the wood before application so that it doesn't begin to set the moment it touches the surface. You will generally get much deeper penetration this way.

A heat gun can be used to pre-heat the board if handled with care, but a normal hairdryer will put out sufficient heat. Since the wood will cool off fairly quickly on its own it's best to do this one area at a time, so you'll work over the board section by section.

How to apply
Couldn't be simpler, you just dip a brush into the wax and start brushing it onto the pre-warmed surface.

When you're done and all the wax has cooled and solidified some excess will need to be removed from the surface and scraping is probably the most efficient method. You can use the edge of a kitchen knife for this if you don't own any conventional wood scrapers. For the grooved areas a spoon will work great, its edge can be sharpened if necessary but remember to blunt it afterwards if you return it to normal duties!


*Unless you have a low-temperature heat source like a hotplate it's best to melt the wax in a double boiler (simplest version is a glass, ceramic or metal bowl suspended in simmering water). Once fully molten the wax will have become clear.

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    I used a double boiler to melt some wax while I heated the board with a hair dryer. I got the board nice and hot then poured the wax on and massaged it in with a clean cloth. I did have a lot of excess that I had to remove with a scraper. When I was done with the scraper I simply got it back under the hair dryer and massaged in any leftover wax. This worked especially well in the juice groove where it was hard to remove the excess. My own thumb nail proved to be the best tool there. – Jon Dosmann Dec 19 '17 at 14:16
  • Great to hear back about this, thanks. Good use of your thumbnail! Hadn't thought of that option. – Graphus Dec 20 '17 at 5:15
  • Not sure if there's anything to be mentioned about the fact that the beeswax is "raw". In case that means "unrefined" (meaning it still has residual honey, sugars, or small particulates), it can be put in a slow cooker with water, where the water will remove anything water-soluble from the wax -- the wax can be separated again when cooled. Don Williams, a museum conservator, shows how to do it in YT: Refining Beeswax with Don Williams (Workshop Tour Part 2). – ww_init_js Mar 5 at 20:49
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I have a method that works great to get the wax deep into the board.

I preheat my oven to 175F and then turn it off but leave the light on to provide some additional heat. I then let the heat even out and cool to about 150F. I put the cutting board in the warm oven, and when it is heated through I take it out and rub it with raw bees wax like a big crayon. I buff it in with a small piece of microfiber scrubby and put it back in the oven to melt and absorb.

Repeat when the board gets dull.

I have found that treating a board with a coconut/coco butter/bee wax mix the first time (using the same heat/apply/reheat method ad for wax) helps condition the board but it may go rancid over time and may not be best for long life items. I use cheap bamboo or wood boards a lot but have never had one go rancid on me.

  • I tried this once, but forgot the "turn it off" stage. Ohhh how heartbroken to see a nice new end grain board literally melt apart :( – Stephen Mar 9 at 7:28
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The simplest method of using beeswax is to grate it into turpentine and stir it until it forms a soft-ish paste. This may not be ideal for a food surface though. Turpentine smells great but I wouldn't want to eat it. The method you suggest does work but needs quite a bit of effort to get the wax to soften enough to spread across the wood. Applying some heat would help. Perhaps a hairdryer or a heat gun. Be careful not to scorch the wood though.

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